If you frequent social media in any writerly circles, you’ll see references at this time of year to NaNoWriMo. What on earth is that? It’s shorthand for National Novel Writing Month, and the general idea is that you clear the decks for all of November, and write as much as you can each day, hoping to have a 50,000 word rough draft done by November 30.
This is year 30 for NaNo, and the official website shows about 800,000 people participating in this round. Doubtless many more are unofficially giving it a shot, or half a shot. People who find this exercise useful will schedule writing meet ups, make pep-talk-pacts, do on-line writing sprints together, and exchange accountability totals. Many a fine book got its start in the fun, grueling, determined, did-we-mention-grueling trenches of NaNo.
For me, every month is NaNoWriMo, but writing is my calling. Many others trying to hit the 50,000-word goal are raising children, holding down day jobs, maintaining primary relationships, and otherwise impersonating human beings. Coming up with the time and creative energy to average 1,666 words a day, without fail, is no mean feat.
The mentality of gutting it out for a month also characterizes the Whole-30 diet, which for many people is a fast from Everything They Hold Dear. No sugar, no booze, no legumes, no grains, no dairy, no MSG/sulfites/carrageenan. I’ve done it twice, with no apparent benefit (and a moderate sense of on-going deprivation), but what made it survivable was the knowledge that Day 31 was growing ever closer. The benefit of reduced systemic inflammation would supposedly be lasting, while the effort was time-limited.
I’ve also run across the Forty Bags in Forty Days decluttering challenge. The idea here originated with Lent (technically 46 days, but Sundays are for rest), and it’s fairly simple: Remove on average, one bag a day of clutter from your house every non-Sunday between Ash Wednesday and Easter Saturday. If you live in a spotless temple to organization and cleanliness, you can remove one item of clutter a day instead. The removed items can be donated to charity if appropriate or simply tossed.
These very different projects have several commonalities. NaNo, Whole-30, and 40 Bags are all social. They all come with forums, websites, FB groups, and a group effort element. They are all time-limited, and as the Whole-30 founder says, for thirty days, you can put up with black coffee. They all break down a significant challenge into day-by-day progress.
For me, anything that happens dans un troupeau is to be avoided. I don’t feel safe in crowds, I don’t like them, not even virtual crowds. There’s a force at work in crowds that weighs against individual awareness and judgment, and that’s a nope for me. But I do like the idea that in a relatively short period of time, I can nibble away at a big task, and get ‘er done. I like especially that at the end of my trudge, I will have something lasting to show for it (though clutter grows back, all by itself. It does).
When you have a big job to do, or a big change to make, how to you tackle it? Step by step? Blitz? Round up your team? Chase off all the non-essential personnel? To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 Amazon gift card. I’ve also updated the Deals page for November, and the half-off title this month is Jack (who faced a big job, and didn’t have a lot of time to accomplish it).